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Dead Girl on Film (2000)
16th Feb 11
Jimmy, Max and Bill make S&M films, but no one's buying. Things are looking down for the group and their lackluster enterprise when they are approached to start producing snuff films. Max takes the idea and runs with it, taking pushover Jimmy with him into a dark world where things only get darker once the dead strike back.
The snuff film: a way for young, amateur filmmakers to make their work look edgy and disturbing, while simultaneously giving them sufficient reason to show lots of good old fashioned titties. Before I begin, I’d like to say that while this is an overplayed, oftentimes dull approach, other times it actually works, if just to an extent. One example of such a phenomenon is Dead Girl On Film, written, directed, and produced by Brian Paulin, of Morbid Vision Films.
Dead Girl On Film centers around three friends who are making a little extra dough by (badly) directing bondage flicks. Jimmy (director Paulin), the camera man, is the most uneasy of the group, while Max (producer Rich George)–apparently the brains behind the troupe–is the most sadomasochistic, at one point having a woman pull a piercing out of his back after discovering the resultant euphoria. In the midst of emotional upheaval at the hands of his royal bitch of an uncaring girlfriend, Jimmy is appalled to find out that not only does their distributor no longer hold interest in the tapes, but Max wants to go up to the next level, to snuff films. Being the underling that he is, Jimmy agrees and the friends set out to film a murder, which comes easily to Max. It goes well, until Jimmy starts to regret what he’s done just as ghosts start to terrorize the group.
This film is no classic, it’s not even especially well-made, but as a no-budget horror flick it works. The key thing to such an amateur effort is entertainment value, and Paulin succeeds by creating a narrative that, while none-too-original, offers up interesting characters and some tight gore effects that come very close to Hellraiser territory. That, and the sense of behind-the-scenes fun is so thick you could cut it with a butter knife. While taping it.
The acting is what really worried me about this film. Having seen trailers for Paulin’s other efforts, I knew he could deliver on the gore, and having read many a review, I was scared that lame acting would ruin the film. You know what? It didn’t, because it wasn’t there. Is it Oscar worthy? Holy fuck no. However, when someone calls acting nonexistent, I expect something along the lines of chorus kids performing a high school musical–maybe some flash and bang, but overall flat, uninspired, and uninteresting. What I got here was amateur, B or C-movie acting, and that’s just fine. With a budget as low as this film appears to have had, I could have dealt with a lot worse. The two leads, Paulin and George, do just fine, with a few flat lines between them, but overall a loving dedication to their subject matter that pulls through just enough for their inexperience to hold no negative effect. The rest of the cast, who have barely any screen time, do just about the same, but are for the most part flat and – in the case of Jimmy’s girlfriend –just hold no interest. However, as I said, they have barely any screen time, so it’s all dandy thereabouts.
Direction wise, I got a nice feel of semi-professionalism. While there were a majority of still shots where Paulin apparently just sat the camera on the ground and let it roll, at no point did it come off as amateurish as it did uncreative, while in no way taking me out of the flick. At one point, Paulin took the camera and followed a rubber tube up to to a character’s face, which made a mark on me as legitimately fun, creative cinematography. Similar instances showed themselves throughout, but altogether were scarce, leaving me with a sense of “meh”. The direction was by no means a deal breaker, but it wasn’t especially good, just average. Once again bringing the budget and experience levels into play, no harm no foul.
I think the biggest problem with Dead Girl On Film is the structure. We’re treated with a lot of talk and bullshitting until we get to the titular murder, which passes without much more than a whimper. From this point the film brings in spooks almost immediately and, following some conflict between the characters, jumps into the quick, successive deaths. Leaving everything for the end like this, while it does build tension, just feels sort of unsatisfying. Don’t get me wrong here, it’s done well enough and the gore is fantastic, but it happens so quickly and in such a slasher sort of way that the pay-off is just anticlimactic and more representative of a short film than a 79-minute feature.
Despite the above problem, if you can get past some cheap lighting and an ugly DV picture, this is a generally fun movie. George has a fun time in his role, while Paulin had me feeling somewhat sorry for him by the end. While I wouldn’t recommend buying this, if you’re a big fan of no-budget horror than it should be just right for you, and if you use Netflix, than I say throw it up on top of your queue.